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Announcement FROM JOE HANDLEY...

New Announcement from Joe Handley
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Our Asian Access national leaders have big hearts. And they tackle big problems with amazing creativity—as is the case with Phnom Penh’s Jesus School

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Jesus School was born out of the vision of Meng Aun Hour, National Director for A2/Cambodia (pictured above with his wife Rady). Meng Aun volunteers time with Asian Access; his primary ministry is Followers of Jesus (FOJ) church, where he serves as pastor.

FOJ developed a burden for the men, women and children hidden in Phnom Penh’s slums. These are the poorest of the poor, who often rely on money made by their children “working” the dumps for recyclables to put daily food on the table. This dependence on child labor ensures that the poverty cycle will continue, as these children grow up uneducated, unemployable—and dependent on their children to scrape up enough daily pennies to survive.

Meng and his FOJ congregation found land near one of these slums and launched a small school (they’d worry about the name later). Building a small classroom and play yard, they began to reach out to the slum families. “We will give your children a free education, complete with a school uniform, pencils, paper, and one meal a day. Will you send your children?”

They were astounded when the initial answer was no. “No one will employ us. We depend on our children to earn enough money for today’s food. If they go to school, we will starve.”

What to do? Meng and his fellow FOJ leaders came back with an ingenious proposal.

“How much money do you need each day to survive?”

“About fifty cents”, was the reply. “OK,” said Meng. “Every day your child attends school, we will pay you fifty cents. But if they are not at school, you will not be paid.”  FOJ provided both incentive and accountability to make school possible for these children.

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The results?

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Jesus School now educates 255 children. As you can see from the photos, these kids are attentive, energetic, and cute as anything. And after three years, the families stopped taking the daily payments. They’d seen how Jesus School was transforming the lives of their children, and were willing to go out and scrape up the money to invest in their education. It’s quite a story.

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There goes a Jesus!

Oh, and the name Jesus School?  “There is no word for ‘Christian’ in Khmer [the Cambodian language, pronounced Kuh-MY]”, Meng told us.

“When a Cambodian sees a Christian, they say, ‘There goes a Jesus’. So when their neighbors began asking the slum parents where their children were going, they replied, ‘They’re going to Jesus School.’ In the end, we decided to make that the official name.”

What better name for a transformational Christian school than Jesus School? What better name for an outreach-minded church in a Buddhist nation than Followers of Jesus? And what better name for a dynamic, visionary Asian Access national director than Meng Aun Hour?

Noel Becchetti

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